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    Jul 19 2011: The automobile is a big drag on our culture. It kills and mames many of us, it squanders resources, and it wastes a large fraction of our attention on driving that could be better employed in other pursuits as we ride in shared, safer vehicles.

    A better transportation system than the automobile would require a number of elements. The automobile is attractive because you can get in it in your garage and drive to your destination on your own schedule. A system to replace the automobile must allow the same flexibility. Transportation on the thoroughfares is made more efficient with mass transit, but mass transit as it exists forces its own schedule on us and requires both transportation from our point of orign to the mass transit origin and transporation from the mass transit terminal to our destination. To compete with the automobile, (1) cost competitive mass transit must become used so heavily that it leaves the station every few minutes, (2) there must be readily available, cost competitive transit to and from the transit stops to our homes and destinations.

    To replace the automobile, a new transporations system must also become so reliable and efficient that we can stop investing in automobiles. Our addiction to the car is based on the fact that one cannot afford not to buy one (or two) since it is the only consistently dependable way of efficeintly getting where one needs to go. But once one has one, one cannot afford to spend much on other forms of transporation. The car is the crack cocaine of transporation.
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      Jul 20 2011: You're right to point out that the city scape is shaped by the underlying transport infrastructure that serves - and in some cases dominates - it!

      When you look, in particular at cities in North America, the underlying assumptions made about the long term costs of gas at the time of urban developments pushed a model of urban development supported principally by the motor car. It's resulted in large sprawling cities which are incredibly difficult and costly retrofit for mass public transportation.

      I have referred to the issue of density in other threads to this conversation and it's clear from the model of cities like Singapore and Hong Kong that dense development and integrated transportation systems that th energy benefits are locked in.

      This has to be a priority in emerging economies, notably China but also India and other parts of developing Asia.

      Thanks for your contributions.

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